Monday, October 23, 2006

DOJ's Gonzales should observe some ethics

It is sad to see how the justice secretary has contributed at lessening, if not eroding the peoples' confidence in the judiciary.
We read in the newspapers the secretary of the Department of Justice letting his mind out--- as usual--- to the media, saying the Supreme Court Chief Justice should shun the socials to avoid the powers that be who have pending cases and/or interests before the high court.
The justice secretary is quite off-tangent because instead of cuationing his principal client---the President---from issuing statements that might place the judiciary in an uncompromising situation, he instead aimed his sights at the highest magistrate in the land, giving him unsavory food for thought.
This is highly improper and unethical for a lawyer who heads one of the government's prime legal departments, the Department of Justice, and who handles the most influential client---the President.
We can understand the President for making those akward statements in the presence of the magistrates, even if, in legal circles, this is something technically contemptible.
The President in her speech said the government is determined to push for charter change.
There is a pending case before the Supreme Court involving proposals for a peoples' initiative to change the constitution.
The President is not a lawyer, thus apparently she might not have fully grasped the implications of her statements on the peoples' perception of our legal system.
The President is the most powerful person in government. Decency should have reigned, and dictated that she restrain hereself from issuing statements about matters pending before the high court.
The President received criticisms for her remarks before the Global Forum on Liberty and Prosperity, a gathering of local and foreign magistrates led by Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and sponsored by the Philippine Supreme Court.
In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer Senator Richard Cordon was quoted as saying "It's an attempt to give her view to the Supreme Court... It's not in good taste,''
But what is despicable is the action of the President's legal adviser, the justice secretary.
The justice secretary should have advised or cautioned the President that her actions may be perceived at trying to influence the judiciary. Or worse, such actions may erode the peoples' confidence in the country's legal system.
Lawyers are governed by canons of professional responsibility in the practice of their profession.
The justice secretary may have entangled himself with certain basic ethical precepts.
For instance, under the very first canon it states:
Rule 1.02 - A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.
This is part of the justice secretarys obligation to society, as stated in Canon 1 that "A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes.
Moreover, by failing to counsel the President about ethics and propere decorum specially in matters that are sub-judice, the justice secretary is answerable to canon Rule 13.03 - "A lawyer shall not brook or invite interference by another branch or agency of the government in the normal course of judicial proceedings."
The justice secretary is better off counseling her client---not the chief justice---in compliance with the canons of professional responsibility.
It's smacks of arrogance.

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